Bruscandoli are hop sprigs growing along the hedges around the artichoke fields on Sant’ Erasmo or in wild parts of in the Lagoon and the Estuary. My grandmother used to collect them around Lio Piccolo in the northern Lagoon.
Perhaps it’s easier to buy your spring sprouts at the markets in Venice. It’s pure delight looking at the banchi – the market stalls now. Beautifully decorated with tamarisk sprigs and a wealth of lush spring herbs. Thyme, basil, verbena, mint, rosemary and sage.
From mid-March through May you can find not just bruscandoli (wild hops) but also barba di frate herbs and agresti. They make great ingredients to enjoy spring on your table with pasta and risotto or as a side dish, just seasoned with olive oil and sea salt. Their natural flavor will convince you !!
We love mixing bruscandoli with other sprouts such as carletti and sauté them in olive oil together with raisins and pinoli.
To make a delicious plate of pasta ai bruscandoli braise the sprouts in a pan in a little olive oil. Treat them carefully as they break easily. Take them out of the pan and put them on a warm plate. In the meantime, mix and heat a few spoonfuls of panna (cream) and spices in the pan. We use yellow mustard power, saffron, black pepper, sea salt, a hint of sweet paprika and chili flakes. Use turmeric instead of saffron if you feel tired. This is a dish that really fights spring fatigue !! It’s the spices that softly wake up your body and the greens help you to adapt to spring.
Bring pasta to the boil, spaghetti are fine or short pasta as you can see in the picture above. Finally, carefully mix the pasta, bruscandoli and the pasta sauce. Sprinkle with grated Taleggio cheese if you like, add a few drops of chili-flavored olive oil and freshly ground pepper.
If you are a bit like me, you will integrate bruscandoli or any spring herb into your spring food every day !! An invitation to get creative !! Which are your favorite spring recipes?